My eyes snapped open but I couldn’t see anything. The ringing was not stopping too. And I had no idea where I was. I reached my hand to where the ringing was coming from. I didn’t find anything. Where was I?
Then my hand struck something, something soft. It was also big, I couldn’t reach the end of it.
“What are you doing?” a voice said and I froze.
I heard a movement beside me and light suddenly flooded the room. I looked around me and everything made sense.; I was in Dupe’s hostel. Dave had brought me here last night, it was the closest to class.
“It’s five o’clock in the morning,” Dupe lamented. “I don’t want to be awake now. Please shut up that ringing phone.”
I searched around the bed until I found my phone and put off the alarm. Dupe had had her sleep disturbed twice and she didn’t love it. It was still dark outside but it was better if I left for my hostel. I couldn’t sleep past five anyway, there was no point trying.
”I’m sorry Dupe, I will be leaving for my hostel now.” I said and began to pack my books.
She nodded and sat at the edge of the bed. “Why did you come here last night anyway? You’ve never slept in anybody else’s room but yours in four years, so why today?”
I considered telling her about the guy I met in the class but she would only laugh and spread the story, it would not do me a bit of good.
”I left the class late and I decided to stay here instead.” I said, avoiding her gaze. She looked closer at me, she knew I was hiding something.
“Wait a minute, were you with a guy? Did you finally say ‘yes’ to Dave?” She said, jumping off the bed with a huge smile.
Nothing would please Dupe more than to hear I was in a relationship and it would surely stop further questions about why I was in her room.
“Well, it was Dave who brought me here but it doesn’t mean I have said yes to him.” I said, faking a smile. Now I was eager to leave her room.
“Oh my God, who knew Dave would be the Prince Charming who breaks through the thick wall of thorns.” She said in a sing-song voice.
“Okay, I have to go now. Sorry I disturbed your sleep, I’ll see you in class.” I said and slipped through the door before she could say anything else.
The cool breeze outside hit my face and for a second I considered retreating into the warmth of Dupe’s room. I resisted the temptation and walked on. I wondered at Dupe’s joy at my supposed approval of Dave’s proposal. I didn’t need a boyfriend, not yet, and I told Dave that already. I liked him, he was probably the only one I could date in the school. Well, apart from Segun who was my friend and Dupe’s boyfriend. I had often fantasized about Segun asking me out but then he asked my friend and so I had concluded; no boys for me till graduation.
Even though she never admitted it, Dupe still felt a little threatened by me. Saying ‘yes’ to Dave would put that fear to rest.
“Hey you!” A voice called out as I approached the Hostel exit.
It was one of the porters. I had slipped past them the night before. I stopped and the woman approached me. My palms were already wet with sweat- I didn’t break the law very often and lying wasn’t my best talent.
“Where you dey go this early mor mor?” She asked, flashing light on my face.
“I’m going to class.” I replied.
“Na your hostel be this? I never see you here before.” She said looking me over.
She didn’t seem to believe me, she kept the light on me.
“Mama Alice, come see something.” Another porter called her. Momentarily she took the light off my face and I saw something on the wall. “This poster no dey here last night o.” The other porter continued.
The poster had caught my attention too. There was something familiar about it.
“Oya you, dey go your class. I no know wetin you dey read for early morning sef.” She said and left.
I wanted to look at the poster but I hurried off. I walked as fast as I could and soon I was in my room. My roommates assumed I had been reading all night and didn’t ask questions. Maybe it was the experience of the previous night or the early morning walk but I was on my bed and asleep in ten minutes. For the second time that morning, my ringing phone woke me up. This time it was a call – from Dupe. I wasn’t in the mood to talk. She called about five times before she gave up.
A sixth call came in though and this time it was my project supervisor. I picked at first ring.
“Hello sir.” I answered.
“Weren’t you supposed to see me this morning?” He asked.
“Yes sir, by 9 sir.” I looked at my watch, it was 8:50!
“You are always early, I assumed you would be today.” He said.
“I’m sorry sir, I will be there very soon.” I punched myself. How could I have slept off?
“Say hello to your lover and tell him posters all over the school was more littering than romantic.” He said and ended the call.
My lover? What lover was he talking about? And posters all over the school? Oh my God! What was on the poster I had seen earlier that morning? I dialled Dupe’s number immediately. I paced in my room as I waited for her to pick, she didn’t. Oh no, please God let me be wrong. I redialled the number.
She answered. “I’ve called you several times, why haven’t you been picking?”
“Sorry, but what’s going on?” I asked.
“I have to go, my lecturer just entered the class. I’ll be done in one hour, we need to talk o. Dave has a surprise for you.” She said and ended the call.
Dave has a surprise for me? So it wasn’t about a poster? I wasn’t relieved though, not yet, I needed to get into school immediately. I rushed into the bathroom and I was out in five minutes – it had never happened but these were not ordinary times. I dressed up, hurriedly applied my makeup and ran towards the hostel gate.
“Wait, come here.” I heard my hostel porter call but I ignored her.
“Good morning.” A girl greeted me as I walked through the gate. I nodded in reply. I didn’t know her, and was she laughing? I walked as fast as I could. I didn’t know if it was paranoia but I felt like everybody I walked past was looking at me. Finally I got to my department and now I was sure it wasn’t paranoia; people were looking at me. Some even pointed! What was going on? I saw a group of people gathered around the notice board. Somehow I knew there laid the answer to my confusion.
I walked close and then I saw it! Oh no, I gasped. There was a collage of several pictures of me with the words –“Unilag’s Most Beautiful!” I almost fell as my wobbly legs hurried away from the poster. But it wasn’t the only one! I saw another and another as I made my escape!
“Where are you going?” I turned around and saw Dupe. I’d never been more pleased to see her in my life.
“Have you seen the poster?” I asked.
“That was romantic of Dave, I’m so jealous.” She said with a huge smile. ”
“What? That wasn’t romantic! And it wasn’t Dave.” I told her all that had happened the night before.
“What are you going to do?” She asked.
I had no idea what I would do. But I was sure of one thing, it had to stop, now! I had to find this guy.
“If you say you don’t know him, how did he get all these pictures?” Dupe asked.
That was true. Some of them were taken from close range.
“Check this; the picture is on Twitter already. Babes, looks like you’re trending!” Dupe said, giddy with excitement.
I shook my head and looked at the picture again. I looked at each one carefully.
“Dupe, look at this picture, that was our departmental dinner.” “If he took a picture there, he must be a member of our department. The question is what level?”
Well, that narrows it down to a few thousands. My phone rang, I took it from my bag, praying it wasn’t ‘him’. I wasn’t ready to confront him.
It was my supervisor! “Hello sir, I’m sorry, I’m in school already. I will be in your office in a minute.” I said before he said anything.
“You’d better be.” He said and ended the call.
My phone rang again. It was a text this time.
I love you and the whole world will know it. Do you like the pictures? This is just the beginning! – Your secret lover.